You can sense you’ve crossed a barrier you shouldn’t, and that becomes a problem.” There are other disparities in experiences, depending on what part of the country a couple lives in, their social circles, and family history.Tara Stewart and Karl Mangan, for example, report no tangible distinction between their relationship and anyone else’s, but they see themselves as living in a liberal bubble.
He was a youthful black man who had moved to Ireland from Nigeria when he was nine. From the moment their union was forged, the young lovers’ came under a hydraulic press of neighbourhood gossip, disapproving friends and constant sideways glances.
“If looks could kill,” Otukoya says, “I’d probably be dead at this stage.” Not everyone uncomfortable with a romance between a black man and white woman was as tactile.
“We came out, a car drove up, called her a ‘n***er lover’ and drove away. She was obviously deeply upset because she couldn’t be seen as someone who was in a genuine relationship.” Richard Bashir Otukoya: “There was no, ‘Oh look at this guy, he’s got a job, he’s doing his Ph D.’ There was none of that.
It was just, ‘No, you’re black.’ That’s it.” Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times As someone who has suffered “subtle racism and explicit racism” all his life, the incident did not unnerve Otukoya (“That’s fine because then you know their intentions”).
Richard Bashir Otukoya has some bad relationship stories. They ripple with a hurt most of us don’t experience.
His voice quivers and cracks as he describes a doomed romance with a woman in Letterkenny, Co Donegal.
But his experiences have soured him on the idea of ever entering an interracial relationship again.
“I wouldn’t dare put another girl through that again,” he says.
I have spent several weeks speaking to couples and people with various experiences from across the spectrum of interracial dating.
Enar’s stats are consistent with what I hear during interviews conducted for this story – that black people, particularly black men, who enter interracial relationships with white Irish women suffer the sharpest abuse.
While Ireland is becoming much more cosmopolitan – certainly in Dublin and its surrounds – I think [there are still] long-held beliefs around cultural difference” In Otukoyo’s mind, there is a distinction in attitudes to a black man having white friends and generally being a functioning member of Irish society, and a black man who enters a relationship with a white woman.